By Blood We Live Page 18

“Please,” I said. “Can we just forget this for now? I’m not asking anyone to do anything. The likelihood is I won’t take it any further. If you hadn’t all already seen the goddamned package I wouldn’t even have mentioned it. Seriously. Forget this. It’s no one else’s problem.”

Unless we’re being watched. Lucy didn’t say it. Didn’t have to. Instead she said: “It’s a bad time to be getting involved in anything we don’t have to. The way things are out there.”

“Out there” was the world, which, courtesy of our population explosion, wasn’t what it used to be. Full moon these days you couldn’t open a cupboard without a howler jumping out at you, if Internet gossip was to be believed. The virus that had brought the species to near extinction had died at last in me, and Jake too, by the end. Every werewolf since could trace its infection to either him or me. The good or bad old days were back: Survive the bite and the Curse was yours. Estimates ranged from six hundred to ten or twenty thousand monsters roaming the earth. No one really knew. Transformations were all over YouTube. Demand for werewolf porn, which, since it invariably centred on fuckkilleat, was also snuff porn, was growing, according to Playboy magazine, “at an exponential rate.” Governments had taken the line of lumping us in with crop circles and the Loch Ness Monster. The U.S., UK, German and Russian administrations had posted counter-videos online, “showing” the alleged transformations were cleverly manipulated effects and props. “Hoaxers” had “confessed.” Up until two weeks ago the Christian Churches had sung the politicians’ song. Then the Vatican had volte-faced and stunned the world: Not only are werewolves and vampires real, their statement said, but Rome is secretly training an army of warriors to destroy them. The announcement launched an all-platforms ad campaign, a TV, print and online assault on the faithful’s credulity, filled with testimonials from believers—and more importantly former non-believers, now converts—who’d been attacked by one of these abominations but “saved” by the intervention of God’s holy soldiers, the Militi Christi, whom everyone (except, officially, the Catholic Church itself) was now calling “the Angels.”

“I know,” I said. “I get it. Don’t worry. I’m not going to do anything without discussing it with you. But can we just agree to shelve it until after Saturday?”

In the end we let it go, with some abrasion. The temptation was to change the arrangements for Saturday. But as Walker pointed out: If someone was watching us now with a view to following us they could follow us wherever we went. Changing the kill wouldn’t make any difference. Besides, we only had two and a half days. Not enough time to orchestrate an alternative. The only alternative, in fact, would be to abandon the pack kill, go our separate ways and take our chances with victims as and where we found them. None of us wanted to do that.

Lucy took the local train to Rome to spend the day at the Villa Borghese. Trish went to the beach. Cloquet, who’d evolved a second or meta-hangover, went back to bed.

As soon as Walker and I were alone with the kids I told him the truth: Quinn’s journal. The possible origin of the species. Olek’s note.

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He was underwhelmed.

“I wouldn’t get too excited,” he said. We were in the kitchen. Zoë and Lorcan were under the table, Lorcan aggressively colouring a picture of the Three Little Pigs (God being dead, irony still rollickingly alive), Zoë building a precarious tower with empty cotton spools she’d found somewhere. I had maybe six months before the thrill-discrepancy between things like cotton spools and Xboxes registered.

“Don’t get excited?” I said. “Are you serious?”

“Just because there’s a story doesn’t mean it’s true.”

I managed not to say: “Jake thought it was.” Too much Jake, lately. Jake too often invoked. Instead, I said: “I know that. But wouldn’t you rather know the story and disregard it than not know it and spend your life wondering?”

“I won’t be spending my life wondering,” he said. “I’m not the wondering kind.”

Zoë said, apropos of nothing (except to a three-year-old everything is apropos of something): “Elephants don’t eat beans.” She doesn’t like beans. Especially kidney beans, which she calls “bugs.”

In spite of everything else going on it made Walker and me laugh. Then made us infer a kid’s instinct for when the adults need help, which made us both sad again.

“Whatever the origins are,” he said, “we’re here now, two arms, two legs, full moon every month, life to live. It’s different for you. You had the Catholic childhood. You’re hardwired to think there’s got to be something up there, out there, wherever, some meaning to it all, no matter how many times you quote Jake. I didn’t grow up with any of that. I grew up with McDonald’s and Pets Do the Craziest Things.”

Every so often he said something like this and I realised I’d forgotten his past, the tumour around which his character had formed. When he was seven years old he’d killed his father, an NYPD cop. I shot him with his own gun. Standard issue Glock nine-millimetre. He was smashing my mother’s face into the television. I remembered the way he’d told me. In a tone that conceded that his horror story—any horror story—was only ever one among many. Especially to me, multiple murderer, eater of human beings, werewolf. It can’t be anything other than minor to you, he’d said. It wasn’t minor. Nor was it his only horror story. It was the told one. There was also the untold one. The story of what had happened to him when he’d been captured with me by WOCOP two years ago. Inside the detention facility they’d kept us apart. We’d never spoken about what they’d done to him. Torture was a given, but we’d never used the word “rape.” All this had happened to him before he’d been Turned. His embrace of wulf had been (amongst other things) an attempt to shed the dirty skin. Expect the absurd, Jake had written. It’s the werewolf’s lot. And since he was right, here was someone who’d chosen one monstrosity to blot out another, the principle of violent eclipse. Not total. The seven-year-old boy was still in there, the raped man, all the shadowy selves that even in the blood din of the Curse could still, at moments, be heard. I felt sorry for him, loved him afresh—but felt too my heart’s appalling approximateness, its devious generosity, its room for other things.

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